Left wing, Right wing – It’s the same bird

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Judith Collins has been coached. Someone may have told her to smile more often, she’s looking quite smart in a made-up matronly way, with her facecake and trimmed hair as she does the rounds visiting steel fabrication plants and other businesses around the country. She’s most compelling when she’s warmed up, and may even become convincing to (swing voters), with practice. Her performance in the National Party ad is stunted and almost a laugh for a non-supporter like me.

On the other hand, Jacinda doesn’t seem to need much coaching, with smiling delivery of complex policy announcements like it comes naturally. It does come naturally – so puts every current and other aspiring politician in the shade. Her ease with shy children and their infatuated parents, and schoolgirls who think she’s a gift from God while making it look natural and unforced, and not exhausting, charms those in the path and  breathless overseas journalists. But it also risks overexposure when other Ministers can’t get a word in. It also denies competent Ministers (such as Megan Wood) their due space to add depth to policy announcements and the Labour Party itself. Jacinda doesn’t need to prove anything – she could just stand there looking beatific and some supporters would be happy. In their first electoral ad, Jacinda looked slick and polished, almost hyper-real.

The two leaders and their parties have been at pains to outflank each other, and all other players, in the centre – Hotelling’s Law, or Tariq Ali’s extreme centre.  Labour trumps Green aspirations for 100% renewable electricity in their proposed ‘Think Big Version 2020’ Lake Onslow dry-year storage scheme. But renewable doesn’t mean sustainable or a good investment, compared with other options such as insulating houses and is dependent on an expensive business case, uncertain consent approval and a huge sum of money for moderate gains while still letting agriculture and transport off the hook for climate change emissions which would be a better effort. That makes me wonder, in light of the potential Tiwai point closure freeing up extra electricity, so what and why?

On the right, Labour outflanks National with their inconsequential ‘revenue policy’ which alienates no-one on the right or the left and makes only a symbolic attempt at targeting the uber-rich whose wealth will only be impacted by the price of a cup of coffee a day by this new proposal, generating only half the tax that cannabis reform would.

In a brainfade that Party members would rather forget, James Shaw outflanked Act with his enthusiasm to get at least one win from the ‘shovel ready’ projects, in supporting the private Taranaki Green School. -Shovel ready projects by the way that disproportionately favour male-based work sectors even though it’s women who are impacted by COVID-19 job losses in 9 cases out of 10.

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Meanwhile the National Party has stolen a hand from any progressive party by promising funding increases for improved dental treatment and for parenting assistance – but in the latter by following a neo-liberal distributive ‘voucher’ model rather than through cash. All the while publishing memes that suggest people know what’s best for their children “your child, your family, you know best” – but still not trusting them to do so.

When the National Party promises ‘reasonably’ good social intervention policies, those in my left-ish echo chamber say they are hollow words, PR, and can’t be trusted. The most strident calls for James Shaw’s resignation came from Green Party supporters and those further left, showing that Lefties hold themselves and their leaders to a higher standard than centrist moderates – which is probably why they are called moderates after all. But when Labour abandon principles and promises of transformation, it’s ‘pragmatism’, and ‘realism’ given the economic situation we’re in, and the ‘cost of power’. Therein lies a conundrum – the Greens say they’d be possibly prepared to sit on the cross-benches rather than compromise their principles, Labour supporters say the surrender of principles is essential in order to win and retain power. But then what is power for?

But we’re tribal after all, and policy matters less again than personality. We’re forgivably a bit tired and jaded with politics. Coronavirus is the only thing that matters, and anyway, according to an Ipsos Poll, “No critical inquiry please – we’re New Zealanders”. And in the choice of the centrist duopoly (with a few centrist minor players – NZ First, Act and the Greens included), people may just vote for the party – or leader in particular, that makes them feel better – and according to a recent poll, Jacinda makes people feel more hopeful than Judith does.

However, commentators warn about the ‘shy Tory’ factor, voters who are reluctant to admit they are conservative voters in public polling, which may skew the election, and good reason why Jacinda Ardern is ‘taking nothing for granted’. Labour didn’t expect to win last time (and in terms of a majority, they didn’t), but even though things are looking more certain now, there’s still time for any fickle consensus to unravel. The Government consensus has certainly already unravelled, with Winston racing out of the blocks to claim credit for his Party’s many wins (and therefore wins for the crony interests where there’s mutual support – and donations), while dissing Labour and the Greens. There’s no love lost from the Greens’ side either (James Shaw’s comments that NZF have been a ‘chaotic’ influence), and Labour carrying a subtext that their promises for the living wage for public sector workers may still come to nothing if New Zealand First are a future Coalition requirement. But also that they would prefer to govern alone without the Green Party either.

Ultimately though in the race between Jacinda and Judith, Labour and National, a hark back to First Past the Post battles for the centre, it’s the centre, not the margins that carry the vote. This election, it’s not the ‘Battle of the Babes” over Auckland Central from years ago, when Nikki Kaye beat Jacinda Ardern. But where the main incumbent parties have little to distinguish them, the nominal ‘left’ and the right, are wings of the same conservative, neo-liberal bird.

25 COMMENTS

  1. It is ironic that National are promising improved dental care for children when it was National governments that closed down so many of the nation’s school dental clinics in the 1990s.

    • Well mike it wasn’t a National government that closed all the railway workshops. What’s your point. The leader race is meaningless. It’s what their government might do not them. Going by what this Government has completed and achieved I don’t hold out any more hope of progress than we’ve seen in the last three years.

      • I thought my point was obvious – National want to restore what they hath taken away and think we should applaud them for that.
        And on the other point – it was the Rogernome government that closed the railway workshops (Labour in name -ACT by nature) – and I don’t recall National opposing that, by the way.

        • My point mike is that you can’t look back and say but a National government did this or a labour Government did that. Don’t look back Mike try scrutinising the current lot. Take away Covid and not much to celebrate in my mind. Of course you can dress up anything and call it what you like Mike.

          • I was intending to comment on one thing: dental policy and hadn’t intended to get into a tit-for-tat exchange on every policy under the sun.
            By no means do I think Labour are knights in shining armour and I will be commenting as such on other policies at other times, as I am sure you will also.
            Kiora.

      • ” it wasn’t a National government that closed all the railway workshops”.. actually, it was the Muldoon government that started the process in a serious way, with the 1981 transport act… that was when the national(ist) govt removed the cap on how far trucks could go to deliver goods, as just one example of how the obvious plan to destroy the railway workshops was hidden under Joyous herald reaction to the open slather opportunities for trucking companies, not to mention the reaction of said companies, that proceeded to clog the roads within months of the new law passing.. what Prebble did was allow the process to continue, which represented their true disloyalty to those who looked to them to rebalance the clusterfuck the nats had created… but be under no illusions.. the nationalist party started the rapid clogging of the highways, the pollution we are now having to deal with, and the massive cost of maintaining severely damaged road surfaces, which were a direct result of this blatant pork barrelling/ ideological warfare..

    • Do you hold Jacinda accountable for Roger Douglas? The late 1980’s and early 1990’s are over a generation ago. Virtually no-one from that era is still in Parliament. Those that are (excepting Winston Peters) were very junior.

      Time for the Left to let go of their grievances from the late 1980’s. And judge people by the norms of this century, not the last.

      • I guess I am being a romantic in thinking that maybe privatization and deregulations of the Rogernomics and ruthanaisa did go too far.

        How then shall we deal with a low inflationary environment and skyrocketing debt using the policies designed to deal with high inflation?

      • Why can’t we hold Jacinda accountable…to use her own tiresome, boring, mind-numbing over-rehearsed spin words:
        ….THE PREVIOUS GOVERMENT….THE PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT…THE PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT…
        (translated into english: we have nothing to show for after three years in govt)

        • There is a difference that the public is detecting with increasing favour about holding power to account and bullshitting the electorates for 9 years.

  2. Since industrialism is the problem, and since all the major parties endorse and promote industrialism -thereby promoting accelerating meltdown of the planet -voters with brains are left with quite a problem.

    • Its more than simply industrialism AWKTT. Its frivolous consumption, the entitlement of those the system rewards with discretionary income – and those who can’t afford it but simply put it all on credit anyway. Its economic models that are predicated it seems to me on social Darwinism not metaphors of symbiosis and cooperation. Its monetary capitalism that idolizes quick and easy profits. Its the sacred domain of private property; the promotion of self-interest through which people act in pursuit of their own good but are supposedly guided by the ‘invisible hand’; competition in all its forms including the reinforcing role of sport; the ideology of the free market; the promotion of consumer freedom and the protective laws that ensure the ‘rights’ of private citizens (and corporations) and help maintain the social order. What we need is a paradigm shift in thinking not another variant of the Third Way. A big ask. Too tough? Is the Covid pandemic enough? But you are right AWKTT: all major parties endorse and promote the status quo, to a greater or lesser extent, and it appears we ARE at an environmental turning point.

      • All things you mentioned, and many you haven’t mentioned, Boso, are the products of industrialism, the conversion of resources into stuff via the use of fossil fuels, and the movement of stuff via fossil fuels.

        Those who argue in favour of electric cars or solar panels etc. conveniently forget that electric cars and solar panels are products of the fossil fuel economy. And what is more, much of the ‘food’ ingested by 7+ billion humans currently alive on this planet is grown, harvested, processed and distributed using fossil fuels.

        As emeritus professor Albert Bartlett pointed out over 20 years ago, industrial agriculture is a system for converting oil into food -not literally, of course, but metaphorically and in practice.

        I was a little shocked to discover today that a recently-met acquaintance had no idea this has been going on in Alberta:

        https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=images+of+athabasca+tar+sands&id=D6761B316D7C9BB6F8E5A494207B0AB6B280EB00&form=IQFRBA&first=1&scenario=ImageBasicHover

        What, not very long ago, was a thriving ecosystem based on forests has been converted into a ‘moonscape’ of toxic waste about the size of England…just so people in western nations can drive cars, have cheap flights and get stuff delivered by diesel trucks.

    • I agree we vote for the best of the terrible lot we have in parliament, we look at all their policies and decide what is the best of them and for me that is vote Green despite their FUs. The main parties are crap.

  3. Even IF neo liberalism is rolled back by BOTH of NZ’s major parties, and that’s not likely, at all, then it will have to be unwound slowly so as not to scare the horses. If National undoes any progress made by a Labour Govt, and vice versa, it will just never happen and we end up with all this tinkering. This is the current situation and is driven by the people. If enough people vote for the Natz and there policies we are stuck in an endless loop. And vice versa. I’m going Green this election no matter what little change they can effect, and sincerely hope Labour keep the Natz out, but only as the lesser of 2 evils.

    • GreenBus
      ‘You are going green this election’ conjures up images of a vibrant party that’s really passionate about the environment, loving the flora and fauna, and throwing themselves in front of trawlers in the roaring forties. In which case you are voting the wrong party.
      However, if you love a bunch of social media office snobs in Armani suits and Versace blouses, who focus on everything BUT the environment, essentially totally duplicating and even brown-nosing Labour, then good choice.
      But if you REALLY REALLY REALLY love the Greens, you’ll vote them out this time so they can urgently get rid a few ‘misfits’ and get their (cow)shit back together for the next election…With a proper passionate strategy that includes ‘we want our policies to live at all costs even if we have to blackmail National’.
      For that exact reason I am not voting National this time, because they are shit at the moment!

  4. The moment our AO/NZ became the walking dead that’s known as neoliberalism we AO/NZ’ers became divided cleanly into two ancient factions. Human beings and in-human, human beings.
    The problem for humanity, when confronted with such a dilemma, is that human, human beings are fettered by their humanity ( Love, caring for strangers, art, beauty, time spent looking at sunsets, holding hands with sweetie etc.) while the in-human, human beings see a very different picture. They see weaknesses to be exploited and opportunities to be taken advantage of and when human, human beings inevitably fail in that particular bar room brawl the in-human, humans gloat about the failings of the human, human beings as if it was some kind of weakness or deficiency in the human, humans.
    And they’d be right. No one takes a feather duster to a sword fight and reasonably expects to return with the spoils.
    In the face of the terrible tyranny of the in-humans, we human, humans don’t stand a chance.
    That’s why global heating, poverty, homelessness, prisons, drug addictions, alcoholism, domestic violence, wars etc.
    Every single abhorrence you can put a name to was, and still is and now more so than ever, was done/caused by the in-human, human beings.
    There’s only one way to defeat, or at the very least to defend ourselves against the tyranny of the in-humans is for we human, human beings to stick together like shit to a blanket.
    We human, human beings are good at that. Or at least we were until roger and his in-human disciples of greed deregulated our unions. We human, human beings are much better at sticking together than the in-human, humans because the in-humans are always in a state of competition. They’re always trying to fuck each other over. They’re incredibly vulnerable for that simple reason and the only thing that keeps the in-humans from literally eating each other alive is because they have enough of the human, human’s money to go shopping for groceries with.
    Perhaps the AO/NZ work force needs to reconsider trade unions and this time? How about inviting our farmers along to chuck one of their many sausages on the barbi with you’s then you can all sit around for a beer and a yarn or two? Because honestly? You have much more to talk about than you might think.

    • The in-humans are going to eat you alive, not themselves.
      I’ve been trying to say this for years on this blog, the in-humans are united by fear and greed and will steamroll humanity in the push for survival of the fittest.
      If the left want to survive, either be the fittest or unite and attack the fear.
      I know the first is never going to be an option. so better the second and actually fight to destroy the in-humans.
      The only thing the left have going is the fear of the right.

  5. ” But where the main incumbent parties have little to distinguish them, the nominal ‘left’ and the right, are wings of the same conservative, neo-liberal bird ”
    This general election like the last ten or so will deliver the same market economy settings with a slight hint of kindness thanks to Ms Adern.
    Life will grind on with the two main parties holding sway every three years with leaders with interchangeable smiling faces.
    The neoliberal incarceration is a permanent reality. There is no viable alternative.

    • …The neoliberal incarceration is a permanent reality. There is no viable alternative…

      Sad but true mosa. Analogous to trying to dig your way out of a hole by simply digging deeper. History suggests that social/ economic systems change only in response to catastrophic events … but unless something like a meteor strike change is almost imperceptible taking centuries. We will be digging deeper for some time yet. Covid the trigger for change? Too soon to say, but unlikely. Yes, the world is more interconnected now but if fatalities are the measure of change, no: some 50 million lost their lives in the 1918 flu pandemic (on top of the 20 odd million who perished in WW1 …and just over two decades later some 80 million were lost in global conflict). Mind-boggling stats by today’s standards. Environmental changes forcing new ways of thinking, new ways of doing things? That might be the case … but again perhaps too soon to say … although some will argue the time is nigh.

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